Lunchbox's Disaster Roundup

The beloved star of our in-book feature "The Predicament," Lunchbox the Cadaver Sniffing Dog, rounds up this week's outdoor mishaps, disasters, and near-misses

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Lunchbox here: Cooling weather might keep a few of us indoors, but plenty of people still get into outdoor scraps even as fall comes on. All of which means I’m still out there, hopefully getting told to “stay” rather than play “fetch the femur.” Let’s check out our wilderness blotter and see if we can’t learn a few things from other people’s mistakes.

Teen dies after falling 80-90 feet in Hawaii. A local teenager scrambling up Mamewa Gulch with two hiking companions lost his footing and fell to the bottom of a 120-foot dry waterfall. A 16-year-old companion also slipped and fell, cracking ribs and getting cuts and bruises, while a 19-year-old escaped uninjured. Fire rescue crews extracted all three teens, and one was pronounced dead at the hospital.

Lunchbox’s Lesson:
Stakes get high really fast on steep terrain, and it can be easy to put yourself in a situation you don’t know how to get out of. To get out of tough terrain, try edging: Stay upright and press the edges of your shoes into the slope. This will increase your grip and keep your balance better than flattening your body against the slope. And when you descend, always remember to descend facing toward the slope.

Hikers lost on Boulder’s Green Mountain rescued. There are epic peaks, and then there’s Green Mountain: This relatively diminutive 8,000-ft. peak rises gently just beyond downtown Boulder, Colo., well within city limits. But that didn’t keep two local hikers from losing their way after wandering off-trail on Friday. Details are scant, but they used their cell phones to call for help and were rescued without incident. 

Lunchbox’s Lesson: Even city parks can get dicey if you hike off-trail. Complications like snow and cold weather (Colorado’s Front Range got blasted last week) quickly add up, so it’s best to keep to the trail. And if you get lost, take a second to stop and think before calling for SAR help. These guys were a stone’s throw from a McDonald’s—if they’d taken a little more time and care, they probably could’ve found their own way out without getting resource-strapped SAR crews involved.

SAR crews find body of 73-year-old man on Mt. Whitney. On Saturday, search dogs found the body of a 73-year-old man on the eastern slope of California’s 14,494-ft. Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the Lower 48. Crews had been searching for five days, ever since the climber had been reported missing on his hike up the mountain. Search and rescue efforts had been hampered by extreme wind and cold.

Lunchbox’s Lesson: This is one unfortunate situation when my canine compatriots got called in to find an unhappy ending. High alpine peaks are a serious undertaking in any season, but winter starts early above 14,000 feet, and conditions can deteriorate in minutes. Overestimating your ability is a serious risk, and going it alone compounds that risk and leaves almost no room for error. Even experienced hikers shouldn’t go it alone on big peaks—especially in shoulder seasons.

16 rescuers and helicopter rescue dog with sore paw. Kerry the boxer busted a paw while on a grueling ascent of Sgurr Dubh Mor, one of Scotland’s toughest mountains, with owner Peter Sinclair. Peter and Kerry huddled for warmth together overnight in a survival blanket until rescue crews could airlift the pair out ahead of oncoming weather. Kerry has previously climbed all of Scotland’s 283 peaks with her owner.

Lunchbox’s Lesson: A good dog is hard to find. The rescue might’ve cost over $32,000, but I think a little quid-pro-quo was in order, don’t you?